28 Best Cold Lunch Ideas

Another day, another food conundrum. It’s hard enough to figure out what to pack for your midday meal, and even more so when you don’t have access to a stovetop or microwave at lunchtime. Don’t resign yourself to cold cuts or peanut butter and jelly! If you want a lunch to look forward to, and don’t want to resort to buying one on your break, this list of cold lunch ideas is for you. Whether you’re packing lunches for school or for work, these chilled options are just what you need to shake things up.

Often when we’ve failed to pack lunch, we find ourselves roaming the grab and go section of our local grocery store. Some of our favorite options include sushi, chilled noodles, and cold salads. Lucky for you, we’ve included some recipes for just those here, and we promise, they’re easy to make at home! Check out our recipes for California rolls, pesto pasta salad, and summer rolls. They’re all super adaptable, so you can fill them with whatever you like.

The other best part about these lunch ideas? We’re not reinventing the wheel here. Instead, we’re taking traditionally cold side dishes you already know and love and upgrading them with protein, fun flavors, and more to make them midday-meal-worthy. We’re sure you’re no stranger to chicken salad or tuna salad, right? They’re solid cold lunch choices, but could get old if you bring them too often. Try changing them up instead. You could add different spices and ingredients, like we did in our curried chicken salad. Or combine them with another cold side favorite, potato salad, like we did in our Greek chicken potato salad. Or you could ditch the meat altogether, like we did in our chickpea “tuna” salad (we swear, it hits all the same flavor notes, without the fish!). Maybe try a different protein altogether, like ahi tuna. It’s the standout star of our ahi poke bowl and avocado-mango poke salad.

We didn’t include any leafy green salads here, but those also make for a GREAT packed cold lunch— check out our healthy dinner salads (if they’re hearty enough for dinner, they’re good enough for lunch). Want more lunch inspiration? Check out our healthy packed lunch list too.

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